After the Fire, the Fate of Notre Dame's Relics Comes Into View

Flames and smoke billow around the gargoyles on the roof and sides of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. (Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/Getty Images)

Now that the flames that devastated the wooden medieval roof structure of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris have finally been extinguished, attention has turned to surveying the damage, tallying what's lost, and racing to save what precious relics may yet remain inside.

According to French officials, those working within Notre Dame at the time of the fire acted quickly to remove artifacts that could be moved by hand.

"Notre Dame's treasury, which included, for example, the Crown of Thorns and the Tunic of Saint Louis, is safe in Paris City Hall," said Franck Riester, France's culture minister, on French radio on Tuesday morning.

Less unclear at the moment are the state of the massive statues and artwork still housed within the cathedral, many of which may have suffered from water and smoke damage. Plans are already in place to begin moving some of the cathedral's greatest paintings on April 19 to the Louvre for protection and restoration.

"We assume they have not been damaged by the fire, but there will eventually be damage from the smoke," Riester told AFP.

The cathedral's three iconic rose windows, the oldest dating back to 1250, are also safe, but they may have suffered damage from both the smoke and intense heat. According to Notre Dame's heritage director, only a single piece of interior architecture –– the high altar installed in 1989 –– was severely damaged by the falling spire.

"We have been able to salvage all the rest," Laurent Prades told AFP. "All the 18th-century steles, the pietas, frescoes, chapels and the big organ are fine."

Below is a gallery showing both the aftermath of the fire and the fortuitous removal of several statues earlier this month before the ill-fated restoration work on the Cathedra's spire commenced.

Inspectors are seen on the roof of the iconic cathedral on April 16, 2019, the day after a fire ripped through the building's main roof. (Photo: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
The dark contrast of the burned interior of the cathedral can be seen through a doorway. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
An interior view of Notre Dame in the aftermath of the fire. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Artwork from the cathedral takes refuge at Paris Hotel de Ville. (Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Notre Dame Cathedral's three rose windows have been declared safe. The South Rose Window, constructed in 1260, is shown here. (Photo: Jorge Láscar/Flickr)
A priest wipes the Crown of Thorns, a relic of the passion of Christ, at Notre Dame Cathedral on April 2017. The crown was confirmed safe in the aftermath of the devastating fire, thanks to the efforts of several people who formed a human chain to pull what relics they could grab from the flames. (Photo: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/Getty Images)
A firefighter examines one of the cathedral's three rose windows on April 16. (Photo: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Patrick Palem, a restoration expert, walks by the statues that had resided around the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris but had been removed for restoration a few days before the fire. They are currently being stored in SOCRA workshop in Marsac-sur-Isle near Bordeaux. (Photo: GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)
These angel sculptures, which were formerly set on the church's dome, are now on display in the crypt of the Church of the Val-de-Grace in central Paris. (Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A crane lifts one of 16 copper statues out of Notre Dame Cathedral to be taken for restoration on April 11, 2019. The spire shown in this photo later collapsed during the massive fire four days later. (Photo: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on April 16, 2019 shows a general view of Notre-Dame Cathedral seen from the Pantheon in Paris, in the aftermath of a fire that caused its spire to crash to the ground. (Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN / Contributor/Getty Images)